Friday, April 29, 2011

Paranormal Pick: Blessed

by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Candlewick Press
454 pages

Fans of Smith's earlier books Tantalize and Eternal will leap at the chance to read this exciting new ya paranormal novel. It melds vampires, werewolves, mythology and angels together. Doesn't every new vampire deserve a guardian angel?

Quincie runs her family's restaurant in downtown Austin. Its campy vampire theme and menu attract the city's foodies, musicians and local weirdos. Austin, Texas, with its real-life bat colony near the river is the perfect setting for Sanguini's and a vampire uprising.

Newly almost-turned Quincie is in the fight for her eternal soul when she hires a new chef and unbelievably handsome waiter Zachery. Zachery has other talents, too; he wields a mighty angelic sword and is the only one who can help save Quincie's eternal soul.

Brad, the evil vampire, desires to rule the entire world: human and vampire, and he's about to take over. Quincie, Zachery, and her wolf friends are the only ones able to stop him.

Get ready for a showdown! This novel is a real page-turner. Paranormal fans will devour it.

Recommended for high school collections. Some mature material.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Click here for Blessed book trailer

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Book Giveaway: The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

5 Copies of The Sweetest Thing are up for grabs!

Read the author interview of Christina Mandelski and post a comment at the end. The only way I can contact you is via email, so you'll have to leave an email address and please leave school's name or library's name and city and state. Books will ship from NYC from Egmont. contest opens NOW. Deadline for posting is May 1 at 12:01 a.m. MST.

That's me getting a HUGE hug!
Christina and I at the Egmont booth. Lovin' Texas!


I met Christana through email when I read and reviewed an arc of her new book. She loved the review and printed it out and saved it to look at as she is writing her next novel--a novel with a little paranormal. "Don't worry," Christina says, "No vampires." smile.

I next saw Christina in Austin, Texas, signing copies of arc's for librarians across the Lone Star State. She jumped up and gave me a big 'ol Texas-sized hug. The pictures are of me with Christina in Austin. The interview was conducted via email.

Q=me, Pamela Thompson, librarian, reviewer, blogger,lover of ya novels, and wannabe writer
Christina, writer extraordinaire's answers are in italics!

Q: In the novel, Sheridan bakes cakes and her dad is a chef. Do you personally have aspirations in the kitchen?

I get asked this question a lot – and I have to be honest – no, I don’t particularly like to cook or bake. But I do have a deep appreciation for well-prepared food. I love to watch shows like Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss, and my ultimate never miss show is Top Chef – I really do feel like what these people do is an art form. Even as a kid, I remember being riveted to Julia Child’s The French Chef on PBS. It’s not an artistic talent that I’ve been blessed with, but I’m fascinated by it (and I do love to eat!)

Q: What kinds of topics did you have to research to write The Sweetest Thing?

As I mentioned, I do watch a lot of cooking shows on TV, but I had to study baking and cooking terms, supplies and equipment. I also took a cake decorating class – there were four sessions and I’ve never worked harder in my life. We made the cakes and frosting from scratch (even the fondant)! It was fun, but it was not easy, and required patience that I don’t have. I did make the most of it, though, and really learned to sympathize with my main character and what she has to go through to make these fantastic cakes.

Q: Sheridan searches for her mother throughout the book—what gave you the idea for the missing/non-caring mother?

As an author, I look for situations to put my main characters in that will allow them to explore a broad range of emotions. The idea of a mom who checks out, who cares more about herself than her own daughter, is heartbreakingly sad, but also is a catalyst for feelings of self-doubt, anger, fear, resentment and disappointment. Sheridan has allowed her mother’s desertion to define her existence and she almost obsessively tries to connect with her mother through cake decorating. But through the course of the story, Sheridan begins to discover that she is more than just her mother’s daughter – that she is an artist in her own right, and (most importantly) that she is loved.

Q: What is Sheridan’s favorite cake recipe?

Sheridan is pretty old school when it comes to cake flavor -- she prefers dark chocolate or vanilla bean, although she’s been known to nibble on lemon sponge with raspberry filling.

Q: What is Donovan Wells’ favorite recipe?

He’s a Midwesterner with a mother from Texas, so he can work magic with a good cut of beef. Filet with a red wine reduction is his specialty, but he grew up in the bakery, so he always leaves room for dessert.

Q: What is YOUR favorite sweetest thing?

I have some self-control when it comes to dessert, but I love chocolate cake with real buttercream frosting. Can. Not. Resist. Key lime pie is another favorite.

Other questions:

Q: What is your favorite book from childhood?

I have so many favorites. I loved the Little House books and the All of a Kind Family books. I loved any mystery (but preferred Agatha Christie to Nancy Drew). But my favorite book was probably The Secret Garden. The plot was just magic to me – orphan goes to creepy house to live with her weird uncle. There’s a mystery – and the idea of finding a hidden garden just enthralled me.

Q: What is the greatest ya or teen read book you’ve read in the last two years and why?

To pick the greatest is tough. I am a big fan of Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot – and the Hunger Games series, I just love it. I also got into the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen (I’m a sucker for historical fiction). But I really adore Joan Bauer. I think Hope was Here is one of my favorite young adult novels.

Q: What is your favorite classic book?

I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Such an important story, but also beautifully written.

Q: What is next for you? Your next writing project?

I’m working on young adult novel with a slight paranormal twist. Don’t worry, there are no vampires.

Q: Where is the ONE place you want to visit in the world and why?

I want to rent a villa in Tuscany. I can picture myself and my family sitting out on a terrace overlooking the countryside, eating bright red ripe tomatoes straight off the vine. Ah, heaven.

Q: What are your favorite words to live by: five or less?

In all things give thanks.

Q: What is your mood this minute?

Busy but happy.

Q: What words of wisdom do you have for teen girls?

Invest in your passion. School and romance and friends and jobs are important, but if there’s something that you love to do, make time for that as well. I wrote in middle school and a little bit in high school, and then I got busy with life and stopped. If I had to do it over again, I would never have put the pen down in the first place.

Thanks, Christina, you really are The Sweetest Thing!

Post a comment in order to be considered for the Book Giveaway

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Middle School Pick: The Silver Bowl

The Silver Bowl
by Diane Stanley
HarperCollins Publishers
320 pages
Available June 21, 2011

In the deft hands of Diane Stanley, the fast-paced tale of Molly, a humble scullery maid who has visions, dark visions, of death for the royal family, and her attemps to warn the King and save the kingdom of Wisteria unfolds. Rich with adventure, masterfully told, The Silver Bowl will resonate with readers grades 5-8.

Molly is a spunky, happy-go-lucky girl who grew up playing hard amongst the local boys, but is shipped off at age seven to go into servitude at the Castle Dethemere. She proves herself at her job in the kitchen but is of particular use in polishing the grand family's beloved silver treasures including a massive silver loving cup with beautiful silver inlays and decorations. When polishing the bowl, Molly sees it transform before her eyes to show the death of the King and the prince.

Molly warns her friend Tobias who works in the stables, and together they keep an eye out for trouble. When other-worldly wolves show up for a royal ceremonial dinner with more than dinner on their minds, the young pair rush to save Prince Alaric.

With Molly's quick thinking and help from friends along the way, Molly and Tobias hide the prince and figure out a way for him to claim his rightful throne. Prince Alaric starts out a foppish, spoiled twit but turns into an incredibly huge-hearted ruler who takes care of those who risked their lives for him. Molly is richly rewarded not only in life but also in love.

Readers will cheer the outcome. This was a lovely, uplifting read--one to be treasured forever. I loved this book and would recommend it to any young reader who likes adventure, fantasy, or just a plain all-out great page-turner.

Highly, highly recommended for middle school and elementary collections. Some high school readers who like adventure and fantasy will also find this an entertaining read.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. I met Diane Stanley in line at the Texas Library Convention where we talked about QR Codes on books and how teens could scan them with their I-phones; little did I know, she had a great book for me to read. She contacted me via email and sent me a copy of the arc of her book. I LOVE it! Sometimes, it's the people you bump into--that is the greatest part of life! I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Dead Rules Giveaway

click here for the Giveaway

Author Randy Russell is encouraging teens to read. Go to his giveaway to win FAB prizes. Teens and librarians can enter to win. Read Dead Rules out June 21, 2011.

YA Thriller: Shadow Hills

Shadow Hills
by Anastasia Hopcus
Egmont, 2010
400 pages
Available in paperback May 11, 2011

Persephone finds it impossible to live in L.A. following the drowning death of her sister Athena. When she comes across her sister's last diary entry, Phe is sure of one thing: she has to go to Devinish Prep School in Shadow Hills, Massachuttes. Her sister was compelled by it and now Phe must discover why.

Devenish Prep is typical New England at its repressive and uptight best: red brick buildings with stern facades complete with stone turrets, tree-lined walkways, ivy covered dorms, dowdy student uniforms, and stiffling studies.

The town holds secrets: weird people with strange abilities, students who can speed read and know all the answers without ever having to study, people who can bend metal.

Phe dreams of a creepy cemetary and later discovers the place behind the church. A dreamy boy named Zach keeps showing up everywhere Phe goes. Is he following her?

Secrets are kept in Shadow Hills. Families are tight and tighter-lipped. Phe discovers some history in the museum and finds a secret room in the library where the history of the town is buried. An epidemic killed nearly all the town in the 1700s, but those who survived passed on an incredible genetic map. Their descendants continue to live in Shadow Hills, and they will silence Phe at all costs!

Exciting, suspenseful, and strange, Shadow Hills is a great read for those who enjoyed the book Ruined. Goth lovers and mystery lovers will also probably like this one.

Recommended grades 9-up. Underage partying, marijuana, mention of sex.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in Austin, Texas, at the Texas Library Association Conference. I was thrilled to meet and greet the author and her fellow author and signing buddy Christina Mandelski (both Texans!). I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Click here for the exciting book trailer!

Monday, April 25, 2011

High School Pick: Scars

by Cheryl Rainfield
West Side Books
250 pages

Cutting, edgy and disturbing, Scars will resonate with young readers, and hopefully help some readers who are looking for their voice after devastating acts of cruelty from their own abusers.

Author Cheryl Rainfield deftly tells the story of Kendra, a troubled but gifted artist whose own mother has yet to see the raw honesty and beauty in her daughter's dark paintings. Kendra was sexually abused by a shadowy figure since age two. She has no recollection of his face but can remember his voice and actions. She knows he's close to her family--a friend or relative. Through therapy sessions, more and more memories are flooding in, but can Kendra handle the truth? Or will the truth destroy her? Can she avoid cutting herself? Or will she make a fatal mistake?

Just as Kendra grasps at the answer, her tormenter comes back into her life--threatening her with first a letter, then a recording. Kendra turns to Meghan, a promiscuous girl she has a crush on. Meghan is troubled, too. Her home life is no picnic, but she is able to offer Kendra the shoulder she needs to cry on. The girls are getting close to uncovering the pedophile, too close...sometimes the truth hurts more than the questions.

Scars is a no-holds barred, in-your-face, brutal read. The reader has hope that there will be closure for Kendra and thousands of other young victims who have suffered from sexual abuse.

Highly, highly recommended for high school collections. Mature theme, sexual abuse, sexual identity, cutting, abuse, alcoholism, language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the author, and I am so glad I did. This book may be life-changing for teens who are struggling with sexual abuse, gender identity, cutting, or other issues. Rainfield offers a Resource Guide for Readers with websites, addresses and on-line articles.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Upcoming Book Giveaways--Don't Miss Your Chance To Win!

Shine by Lauren Myracle
Books compliments of Abrams
Opens May 1, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
books compliments of Egmont
Opens May 9 at 12:01 a.m.

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (fellow Texan)
books compliments of Candlewick Press
Opens May 18 at 12:01 a.m.
click here to see the book trailer

Chick Pick: It's Raining Cupcakes

It's Raining Cupcakes
by Lisa Schroeder
Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)
193 pages

Sweet, charming, captivating, and satisfying, It's Raining Cupcakes is sure to be a hit with tween and teen girls.

Isabel is so sick of her small town of Willow, Oregon. She dreams of travel and can't wait to fly off to fabulous and exotic destinations like her Aunt Christy who flies for the airlines. Isabel's mother has no love for wonderlust; she has the crazy idea of opening a "designer" upscale cupcake shop! A cupcake shop in Willow!

The problem with a new business is getting it off the ground. Just before their grand opening, a huge national chain decides to open a brownie shop on the same street! Faced with giant competition, It's Raining Cupcakes (that's what they name their cupcake shop) has to come up with a serious marketing plan--one that will show their cupcakes in the best possible light and one that can whip (whipped topping, anyone?) the competition.

Dying to go anywhere but Oregon, Isabel enters a baking contest that promises a trip to NYC and $1000.00 for the grand prize. The only problem is that her best friend Sophie enters the contest, too, and Sophie always wins--at everything.

Girls will be cheering for Isabel to win the bake-off and for It's Raining Cupcakes to trump the competition from the Goliath big-box brownie store.

Highly recommended grades 5-8. This novel will also have strong appeal for older "foodie" girls and anyone who likes a sweet story with a happy ending--imagine that! A happy ending!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, April 11, 2011

High School Pick: Blink & Caution

Blink & Caution

Blink & Caution
by Tim Wynne-Jones
Candlewick Press
342 pages

Gritty and provocative story-telling by master Tim Wynne-Jones bring this novel to the top of the high school must-read list.

Two street kids are about to be wrapped up in something that is big--really big---think shake the government to its foundations and topple big money corporations--big.

Blink just wanted a hot breakfast; he wasn't counting on the fateful events he is about to witness. He's learned that if he has the attitude and walks like he belongs somewhere, the doorman and the desk clerk generally ignore him. That's how he gets in the elevator at the ritzy Plaza Regent and takes it up to the sixteenth floor. Blink knows rich people get room service, and that they put their leftovers on the trays outside the rooms. He is always happy to find leftover pork chops or coffee still hot in the thermos. Just as he's celebrating his good fortune, a door opens and Blink hides near the ice machine. He sees several men exit the room wearing plastic gloves; Blink knows enough to know this isn't normal. He watches as they ditch a cell phone and throw a wallet into the room. They throw the room key card over their shoulders.

Blink can't help it; he has to investigate. When he does, he sees that a crime has been commited, but he can't tell what has happened really. He only knows he is now the owner of a sweet Blackberry and six hundred dollars richer.

Caution lives with a drug dealer since leaving her home. Her story is uncomfortable and edgy. She has had enough rough abuse and lies, so she steals the dealer's stash and is on the run from some really, really bad people. Caution has learned to be a loner--if only to save herself.

What happens when two young lives cross? Will Blink and Caution be able to team up and save themselves? Will each trust the other?

Readers will love both slightly damaged characters; both Blink and Caution are complex and hurt individuals.

Highly recommended grade 9-up. Language, violence, drug, gritty details.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fashionista Pick: Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings

Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings (Threads)

Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings
by Sophia Bennett
Chicken House (Scholastic)
2010 (orignally published in 2009 in UK as Threads)
281 pages

Fun and flirty, fashionable and chic, trendy and uber-girly, Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings will have wide appeal to any girl who has a passion for fashion, but not only fashionistas will want to read this novel though. Author Sophia Bennett has teenspeak down pat; the characters are lovable and believable.

Three British teens are best friends and couldn't be more different. Nonie is the fashionista with a Dior-minded granny and an ex-runway model mother. It's no wonder Nonie dreams in Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent. Best friend Edie writes a blog about saving the planet one tree at a time, and Hollywood bound starlet Jenny is just being noticed by the press.

When the three friends meet a twelve-year old refugee from Uganda who shows a knack for design, they decide to help her get a step into the fashion world. Crow's family still lives in Uganda and faces terrible hardship, including the constant fear of death. When Crow makes a name for herself, the friends help get the word out about her homeland's plight. Edie's blog gets so many hits, it keeps crashing. Fashion lovers worldwide are moved to action to help Crow's homeland.

This is a fun read which may make even a "material girl" think about human rights in third world countries where survival is iffy, at best. The book says it best, "Bad stuff happens, but every now and then miracles can happen, too."

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up and for any budding fashionista!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher; I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dystopian Pick: Enclave

by Ann Aguirre
Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)
272 pages

Chilling, caustic, creepy, and cutting, Enclave will have fans of dystopian fiction turning pages at a rapid-fire pace.

In this barren post-apocalyptic dystopia, there are only three groups you can find yourself in: Builders, Breeders or Hunters. Deuce trains to be a Hunter and earns that right after fifteen years. Even in such an important role, Deuce finds it's hard to follow the code of the Enclave. Rules were meant to keep them all safe, but some rules are dangerous and Deuce knows if they are not broken, they could all die.

When paired with smoldering bad boy Fade, Deuce begins to question the rules; when they are both banished, Deuce must rely on Fade for everything, including her life. If they are going to get to safety and away from the Freaks, human-like but zombie-like beings that feed on humans, they are going to need more help.

Enclave is a dangerous thrill-ride and should have wide appeal to both boys and girls. Deuce makes for a great female--fierce almost super-hero. Fans of The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth will like this gritty and gruesome novel.

Highly recommended grade 8-up.
Violence, mention of Breeders--those whose sole job is to keep the species alive and to procreate.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the arc from the publisher. It was originally titled Razorland and had a very different cover. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Author Interview: Terry McChesney author of Dog Tacos

I interviewed Terry McChesney in the library at Col. John O. Ensor Middle School in El Paso, Texas, on April 4, 2011. McChesney was in town speaking to high school students at Chapin and Coronado High Schools. He brought me a copy of his book Dog Tacos and agreed to answer a few questions.

Pamela (me): Who is the target audience of your book Dog Tacos?

McChesney: Middle school and high school readers, but I am surprised how many 30 and 40-year old people who have read it like it.

Pamela: You set the story in El Paso? Why here?

McChesney: I grew up in El Paso and went to Bassett Middle School and Austin High School. Both my parents were teachers in El Paso.

Pamela: What is your next project?

McChesney: I am working on Dog Tacos 2 and have plans for a third book.

Pamela: What is your future in skateboarding?

McChesney: After a 16 year absence, I plan to continue with skateboarding. I used to have a skate park here in El Paso.

Terry McChesney's book Dog Tacos is now available. Other Dog Tacos merchandise and more about the author can be found at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Club Pick: Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow
by Tayari Jones
Algonquin, 2011
340 pages in the arc; page count to be determined
Available May 24, 2011

This novel is bound for glory! Book clubs from coast to coast will be reading this new novel from writer Tayari Jones. From the first explosive sentence, the book grabs the reader up, shakes him/her awake and doesn't let go. "My father James Witherspoon is a bigamist" begins the book. From that short sentence so much emotion can be measured.

Readers will love Dana Lynn Yarboro and feel compassion--if not pity--for her mother Gwendolyn. The cheating husband/bigamist James Witherspoon does not evoke compassion nor even pity. When Dana finds herself face to face with her half-sister Chaurisse, she feels compelled to find out more about her life with HER father (of course, he is Dana's father, too).

According to Dana, bigamy was just a way of life in the 1980s in Atlanta. Many men had their family they went home to every night and maybe a family on the side that they went to see once or twice a month. The other women in these relationships get the short end of the stick; they waited for their "husbands" to show up; their children rarely spent time with their "fathers." The "real" wives got the man most of the time and always on holidays and family celebrations.

Full of life, love, and passion, Silver Sparrow will win the hearts of readers.

Highly recommended for high school and adult readers. I would not recommend this novel for anyone younger than ninth grade. It should have broad appeal with girls.

Mature content; some sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, April 1, 2011

High School Thriller: Wish You Were Dead

Wish You Were Dead (Wish You Were Dead Trilogy (Quality))

Wish You Were Dead
by Todd Strasser
Egmont, 2009
236 pages

Dark, thrilling and compelling, this is one young adult novel that will capture teen interest. When an anonymous high school blogger wishes some popular students were dead, suddenly people start disappearing. First Lucy is taken. Best friend Madison is beside herself; she gave Lucy a ride home but didn't make sure Lucy was safely inside the house before pulling away. Now Madison feels responsible.

The blogger continues to write, but seems to censor some wishes. As more students read the blog, things start to get even weirder (blogging can be dangerous, after all, wink). Lucy's boyfriend Adam is the next student who disappears; then another friend Courtney is unaccounted for. Madison is getting creepy letters telling her that she's in danger. She wants to trust newcomer Tyler, but doesn't quite trust his dark and brooding looks. The police question students but seem to have no leads.

What if Tyler has something to do with the case? What is he's the kidnapper? Or worse, what if he's a serial killer?

Readers will not see the twisted, surprise ending. Strasser has done it again!

Highly recommended for high school collections grades 9-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

New Book Giveaway-April 2011-Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)

Win this exciting debut dystopian fiction novel by Lauren DeStefano! For a description of the novel go to Book Giveaways Page

Post a comment here. Be sure to include your name, your email address, your school or library (it's okay if you don't have one), and your location (U.S. addresses only, please).

Books will ship from Simon & Schuster.
Deadline April 20 at noon M.S.T. Winners will be notified by email on April 21. Good luck! thanks for entering!

Look for other great book giveaways at
where they "automatically scan thousands of blogs to bring you the latest blog giveaways, coupons, sweepstakes and contests."